This blog may be triggering for some readers!
‘Trecia Ann’ was just another kid, in another small town, growing up in Southern Illinois. She grew up in another time when we didn’t yet know about trauma, Adverse Childhood Experiences, Domestic Violence, and Human Trafficking. Back then we never, ever, talked about what happened inside our homes. Back then we never sought therapy or talked about substance abuse problems (including alcohol). Back then we absolutely never discussed the rage and harm; the horrific types of terror that haunted the walls of many homes. Today this old generation accounts for an estimated fifty-million adult survivors carrying around memories and wounds from dark acts that happened then. Unfortunately, these same tragedies still involve hundreds of thousands of children in many forms of maltreatment and suffering, and STILL go unreported in our small towns.
‘Trecia Ann’ was just another little girl who wanted to play football with her brother and friends in the courtyard. She wanted to play with her ‘Micky Mouse’ gumball machine. She carried around the three foot tall nurse doll her dad had just given her for her birthday. She had only just turned five and celebrated her birthday with her father, grandparents, and all those she knew as family. Instantly her life would change forever. She would never see or hear from her father and his family again. As she and her brother went running inside from the bitter cold upon returning home that evening; the man who sat on her couch terrified her instantly, deeply. The girl will never forget tripping over her own feet, suddenly colder than the winter winds outside. Honestly, it’s a fear that still haunts her today. His memory often still causes the hair on the back of her neck and arms to literally stand up and tingle.
She endured her first sexual contact just two weeks later and there was absolutely nothing gentle about it. He did it with fury and complete disregard that she was just a small child. He did it in front of two neighbor boys and her older brother when he had offered to babysit on the night of her mother’s bridal shower. She had never experienced anything like this and when he forced his tongue down her throat, she felt herself vomit. When he grabbed at her body, it hurt in a way she had never felt before. When he threw her off the couch, yelling for her to keep the ‘secret’; to hold back her tears and her screams; ‘If you say anything to your mother, they will take you away. Not me!’ She sat silently, tearfully, filled with terror as she watched her mother marry this man; ‘This is your new dad. Give him a hug and a kiss!’
Every time she bathed he was there. Sometimes he would give instructions. Sometimes he would do it himself. It didn’t stop as she got older. Even at nine her mother sat just in the other room as he walked right in and closed the door behind him. When she yelled out for her mom to say something, she heard nothing. He constantly stalked and lurked when she bathed, the last incident occurred during a short stay when she was forty years old.
She was also nine the first time he loaded his shotgun and held it to her head. He was having an argument with his sister visiting from out of town. One minute ordering the child to do something, the next growling ugly adjectives he often used to describe her. He stormed down the hall and returned loading two shells into the shotgun, cocking the barrel and holding it just an inch from her head with his finger on the trigger. She was just nine years old when he called her in from playing with her brother and sister in the yard, locked the door behind him and ordered her into his bedroom. This was when her mother walked in and caught him as he attempted his first actual rape. However, rather than helping or comforting her young daughter her mother yelled and sent her to her room for the night.
This was when that small town little girl first took off running. The first time she ran to the cemetery, taking cover behind a big headstone. Flooding the soil with her tears as she begged God to help her; ‘Please make me a boy! Please take him away!’ She would always remain hidden until her mother came searching, then always took her back home. Her mother always promised the child it wouldn’t happen again. It always did and usually more intense because she had ran or because she had talked about what happened! Between the ages of nine and twelve ‘Trecia Ann’ ran away three times to escape his attacks, but instead of ending, it just kept getting worse. Then at twelve he finally did something so dark, so terrorizing, so disturbing that she never rebelled again. She never said a word to anyone or refused him. She never cried, never screamed, and most certainly never asked for help; not for anything from anyone.
She knew nothing would never change. He would never stop. Her mother would never do anything, and in fact would not only continue to enforce more family and household responsibilities; cook, caregiver, housemaid, but most important; now she was his slave. In every literal sense, the girl grew up knowing she was the only one ordered to answer the ring of a little brass bell her mother had purchased. Regardless of other siblings typically found doing typical things; in their room with music, doing homework, out with friends, or even sitting in the same room. It was her daily existence when the school bell rang at the end of the day, the rest of the kids were talking about plans for their evening fun; ‘Trecia Ann’ knew that she was going home to hell. It didn’t matter if the rest of the family, or often family friends dropping by, ‘Trecia Ann’ knew she had no choice and no voice. She had to jump immediately. Nothing mattered except running to him immediately every time she heard that ring or he simply ordered her presence.
She was only eleven when he arranged the first private party with boys from that same small town. There were five young boys she was ordered to invite. He told her what to wear, what to do, and what to allow the boys to do to her. When he and her mother arrived back home that first time, he wanted to hear all the dirty details of which one did what and how much she liked it. She was about twelve when he started taking her to the little bar up the street where most of them knew her because her mother actually worked there. The bartender served her double vodka with orange juice to hide the alcohol from others, but as she stumbled around and slurred her words anyone could tell the young girl was drunk.
He enjoyed the power the little girl gave him over the luring men, as much as he enjoyed how well she obeyed his demands. He ordered her to play the jukebox, dance this way, walk that way; seduce the much older men to buy him a glass of draft beer, and another drink for the child. He soaked in the thrill of asking which one the child thought was cute, or which one of the men wanted to take the drunken girl outside to the car. He started arranging parties with adult men, some of whom she had babysat their own children now and then. The house phone would ring about ten or eleven o’clock on a Friday night. He would talk to her mother and then the young girl; ordering her to put on certain clothes, get drinks ready, put the porn tape in the VCR, and be sure to wash the stench off of her filth covered body.
By the time she was thirteen years old, never really knowing when he would attack or demand her response, the constant burden of duties and care for her younger sister; ‘Trecia Ann’ was never given time for personal care and had no clue what healthy hygiene for a developing young girl even meant. She wasn’t provided with medical or dental care. She only used a toothbrush to scrub the crevices and corners of the house. Sometimes she used her finger and some toothpaste to clean the ugly taste out of her mouth. Her teeth were all decaying, but four front teeth were actually black broken fangs. As she got older she desperately tried rolling up little pieces of bread to make her own fillings in hopes that others wouldn’t shame her so badly. Unfortunately it rarely ever worked.
It was a total of twelve long years the growing young child was beaten and violently molested, raped, enslaved, exploited, sold publicly and shared with boys she attended school with daily. Her mother became hugely complicit, especially in the trafficking and enslavement, showing complete disregard of human kindness or basic care. She allowed this one child, whom she had previously shown such love and care, but as the child rotted in stench and decay her mother added to the shaming comments. The child’s was covered with infected sores, which she scratched and scraped at through the nights of tears and terror as she tried to calm herself. Never receiving help or concern from anyone, she could only exist ashamed and disgusted by her own reflection. Decades later she can’t erase what happened, and the layers of pitted scars and broken smile still result in judgement and shame.
Just another child in another small town, attending the same school system for six consecutive years during the very worst of the violence, enslavement, exploitation and sex trafficking. The boys would attend the parties at her house over the years filled with all the treats young teens enjoy; alcohol, marijuana, and a young girl he offered out. There are many of those parties that turned violent against her, or he would threaten them if they didn’t take her in the room; ‘You better do it like I tell you or I’m going to beat the hell out of you.’ He growled and fought with the boys until they accepted her fate and just did what was ordered.
The girls at school saw the girl’s exposed rotting body every day in gym class. Over the years she was covered with welt marks and bruises, layers of filth and infection. They whispered amongst each other. They shamed her and discarded her. The teachers yelled about her incomplete homework, failure to participate in class, called her stupid and lazy, actually avoided physical contact with the child so they didn’t catch whatever was eating away at her flesh.
The local law enforcement knew the stepfather well. He was the town’s meanest drunk and her mother had made sure all the bar owners knew when she was going out of town. The police knew the girl and her family. They were ‘the family’ that everyone talked about; felt pity for the woman married to him. This woman was never threatened or harmed in any way by this man. This woman was warned about him by his own older son before they married. The girl’s mother was complicit in everything that happened. She could have made him stop at any time, but instead she enjoyed not having to deal with his darkest acts and having someone else responsible for cleaning her home, scrubbing and polishing from morning to night every weekend. Someone else cooking all the dinners and doing all the dishes, caring for her youngest child and making certain that absolutely no one even raised their voice at her youngest child. Trecia Ann’s mother had the power and ability to stop all of the dark acts in that small house, but she chose to sacrifice her once happy child instead.
The tragedy of being just another child in another small town is knowing that in all that was witnessed, all the acts that people saw or willingly took part in, the stench and rot they avoided, the girl they kept their sons from dating, the house they would refuse their daughters to enter; as evil as they knew that girl endured, yet they stayed silent. They condemned her, nicknamed her, whispered about her, but not once offer any kind of help.
This one single child endured it all and as you see, she still carries the scars and broken smile of tragedy. She became an alcoholic, a drug abuser, didn’t have a clue how to survive on her own. The only value she had ever been taught about herself was the cheap price of her body. As she went from one violent abuser to the next; all it took was a single act of kindness to trick her into believing it was safe, it was good, it was love. She became a confused, but truly nurturing and deeply loving mother. The kind of mother she had remembered her mother being in her very early years. She struggled and internalized all those years of evil, because no matter what anyone ever did to her; she’d already walked her entire life through hell and survived!
Now much older, Trecia Ann endures constant pain from all the injuries. She can’t erase past memories, attempted suicide, chronic lung disease, fibromyalgia, spinal cord trauma, concentration and memory challenges likely related to decades of violent head trauma and multiple concussions. Instead of being healthy and active in her late fifties, her pain riddled body just wants to see real change happen. She wants to see change that will engage others to seek help and report dark acts in a small town. She wants to encourage and empower families to address and heal from the torment they endured so they can be more positive and supportive for their children. She wants healthcare, victim services, substance abuse providers, educators, law enforcement, and most definitely neighbors to speak up and help those who suffer in silence and stigma every day. Dark acts happen in our families and is still quite active in our small towns.
Trecia Ann hopes you know; ‘Your response matters! You hold the power to help rescue not just that child; you could change the future for generations to come.’
Thank you for reading! Please keep sharing a message of hope and help so we can bring an end to the all too common challenges of harm, trafficking, mental illness, substance abuse, neglect and maltreatment of those we love. We are all human beings and every being is granted basic human rights to safety and equality. Homes do not have to be perfect, but acts of cruelty become far worse when good people choose to do nothing!
As survivor leader of Butterfly Dreams Alliance NFP; we hope you will help bring awareness to the struggles of our families and children in small towns and big cities across the country!
Trish McKnight ~always believe anything is possible with you in the active equation